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Sherlock’s Series 4 has been, rightfully, criticized, both by Rotten Tomatoes certified critics and little wordpress group blogs. But there’s been a running theme of positivity amidst all the criticism: The second episode, “The Lying Detective,” was a strong episode bookended by poor ones. I’m here to tell you that “The Lying Detective” actually doomed Series 4, and quite possibly, Sherlock itself.

OK look, in a vacuum, “The Lying Detective” is the best episode of the series. It’s the most creatively shot of the bunch, with a great villain performance and some thrilling bits of dialogue by Steven Moffat. Take this episode removed from the surrounding series, and it’s a solid work of TV mystery. But I’m not here to tell you it’s the worst, I’m here to tell you it doomed the series. There’s a difference, and the devil is in the details.

So let’s talk about Mary. Mary, Mary, Mary. Her introduction in Series 3 went very quickly from her being a passable side character to a stain on the show. Her character’s reveal as a super special secret agent with a dark past that’s so dark and secretive she can’t tell anyone about it dragged down series 3, and took the show away from its genesis as a modern re-telling of classic stories and into something more along the lines of high budget fan-fiction where Sherlock and Watson wander into James Bond stories. Her character crossed a line into being straight up unbearable in the series 4 premiere, where her super special secret dark past is revealed, and is absolutely underwhelming. And unnecessary. And distracting from the heart of the show. It was bad, and we here at LAS gave it perhaps a too-favorable score. But the episode did do something to set up the rest of the series for success.

It killed Mary.

As if the Sherlock team was aware that her inclusion was hurting the show, they killed her off in the opening episode for series 4, which should have freed up the remaining 180-ish minutes of the series for a return to form. And what did we get?

Mary.

Unwilling to commit to the decision, Moffat instead has his cake and eats it too, bringing Mary back for hallucinatory witticisms that detract from the main story and, again, seem to indicate that her last name is Sue. Mary leaves a posthumous tape behind for John to watch, and it’s after watching her tape, and her warning to him, that John rushes to the hospital to save Sherlock just in the knick of time. Mary. Nevermind the issue of convenience of John watching that exact section of the tape at that exact time, it’s that the writers couldn’t commit to keeping her dead, and still rely on her as a superpowered crutch instead of cleverly writing John and Sherlock out of a problem in a way so as to have them earn it, rather than luck into it.

It’s not just Mary. Allow me to remind you of the scene near the beginning of the episode where Sherlock takes a walk with Faith, the daughter of the episode’s villain, Culverton Smith. On first watch, it’s a wonderful scene where Sherlock makes a rare connection with another person, slowly unravelling the mystery of her past and her father’s. The moment where Sherlock analyzes the note she had by having her imagine a window with sun shining through it? Best moment of the series. Except…

It means. Nothing.

Surprise! It wasn’t Faith! It Was Eurus, Sherlock’s EVEN MORE super special super smart superpowered sister, who’s like Mary turned up to eleven. It was all a fakeout. Sherlock never met the suicidal, memory-lapsed daughter of Culverton Smith. That personal connection was fake. His analysis of her note was actually wrong. The things he learns about her background and Culverton are false. It’s actually ten minutes of filler, a good scene sacrificed in the name of arbitrary plot twists.

That’s the main tragedy of the episode. Moments of drama are insincere, undercut later on with a revelation that takes away from scenes which should be stellar if left untouched.

Culverton isn’t a mystery. The episode wants you to question his motives, if Sherlock’s really gone crazy or if Culverton’s a killer. But it’s all false tension because it shows you the truth in the first scene.

It introduces the concept of a memory-altering pill, and then abandons it. It’s like it’s set up for some sort of resolution or solution involving the pill, but it’s never heard from again. Chekov’s gun is left on the desk unfired.

Sherlock’s drug addiction? Nah, just all part of an elaborate, convoluted, nonsensical plan. Devised by Mary.

None of the tension in the episode is genuine. Everything established in the episode, Culverton’s mystery, Sherlock’s drug addiction, the memory pill, Faith’s midnight trip to Sherlock’s door, none of it actually carries any weight. Culverton’s mystery never becomes compelling because the show tells you the answer before introducing the question. Sherlock’s addiction isn’t as serious as it seems since it’s his own plan. The memory pill never goes anywhere. Faith isn’t actually trying to recover her lost memory and never actually meets Sherlock. It all goes nowhere. It means nothing. It’s filler. The only things in the episode that actually wind up mattering are Mary and Eurus.

I think they tried to put make-up on a pig here. They tried to dazzle with technical pinache, intricate camera-work and trippy moments meant to look cool and obfuscate the increasingly thin story. But it’s different here than in past episodes. I’m starving so allow me a food analogy: In the past, Sherlock’s visual style was like garnish. Visually pretty but complementing an already great work. It helped to accentuate the modern take on Sherlock and his inner thoughts, but didn’t distract you from the main story. The camerawork here is more like drenching an overdone steak with BBQ sauce. It’s trying to hide mistakes.

OK quick lunch break…


“The Final Problem” was atrocious. But that trainwreck of an episode doesn’t happen if “The Lying Detective” stuck to its guns. This is what I mean by it “dooming” the series. Sure, the technical side of things was great, but the events this episode sets in motion culminate in the worst episode of Sherlock’s history, and the show’s future is now in doubt. I honestly can’t blame “The Final Problem” or “The Six Thatchers” for it. It was “The Lying Detective” that was supposed to right the boat, which was unsteady after the first episode, and already capsized by the time the finale came around.

This episode is the one that ends on the mind-boggling moronic cliffhanger revealing her character. This is the episode which is retroactively ruined by her existing in this show’s universe. It sets up the finale for failure and it seals the fate of the first episode by undermining the one useful thing it did. Every interesting thing introduced in the episode itself is undone after one viewing.

It doomed Sherlock.

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Welcome to Living Authors’ Society‘s latest Doctor Who Discussion. Jaden C. Kilmer and J.A. Prentice take a look at Saturday’s episode, Lie of the Land, the conclusion to the story begun in Extremis. Read on for our thoughts.

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There are SPOILERS ahead!

(more…)

Behold, A Mural of the Internet, by the Internet

Posted: April 4, 2017 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
Tags: , , , , ,

 

 

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When reddit’s annual April Fools Joke/Social Experiment was revealed to be a collaborative/competitive mural, it seemed like a project destined for disaster. Who would ever want the collective forces of the internet in charge of creating something like this? And the first few drawings seemed to be what everyone would predict: Penises, dickbutt, the phrase “send nudes please” and a general arbitrary scribble in the center.

But then something strange happened.

People worked together.

At first it was only groups working to turn the whole 1,000 x 1,000 grid into one color, with teams green and blue in the right, black and white in the center, and red in the left. But it soon became so much more sophisticated. It quickly took on the appearance of a collage, with seemingly every semi-organized corner of the internet coming together to eek out a spot to make their own. National flags soon popped up, and there were games where they tried to “eat” rival flags up.

But those games stopped as well. Then instead of competing for the largest flag, people were creating border hearts uniting rival flags and protecting their spot from attackers. And then there were genuinely impressive displays of impromptu artistry, as the Mona Lisa and Starry Night were created pixel by pixel. As were tributes to Steve Irwin and David Bowie. He-Man and Skeletor showed up. Rainbow Road and Old Glory showed up in the center, with the trans flag as the equator.

There were still some that insisted on making it a competition. A group of people tried to make the entire canvas black, and when that failed they tried to erase the big centerpieces. The Mona Lisa, American Flag, center tree, and Starry Night were all at one point completely blacked out. But, counter to almost every other instance of internet trolling, they lost. People rallied to protect this crazy amalgamation of the internet. The mural held.

And honestly it’s kinda beautiful.

 

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With Reddit’s latest April Fools experiment up, I thought it would be cool to be a filthy reposter, and revisit this article from last year.


Here’s a question for you all. How many random internet users do you think can join a chat room before someone starts ruining it for everybody? Or in other words, what’s the ratio out there of trolls to, well, normal interneters?

Reddit’s annual April Fool’s joke seems to have an answer: About one in fifty.

The website perhaps better known for being the birthplace of the Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord theory and the hosting site for celebrities to answer questions from its user base (called AMAs, here’s Obama’s.) unveils an April Fool’s joke every year that usually ends up acting as a strange sort of social experiment. This year, users can elect to push a button, which sends them to a chat room with one other person, and the options “abandon, stay, grow” on one side as a notification informs them that they have x minutes to make their choice. If you abandon, it kicks you out of the experiment. If you stay, nothing happens. If you grow, you get sent into another room, merged with members of another group that also decided to grow.

So what would happen? It’s easy to think nothing of it- to say people will just go from room to room at their own desire, and it will be essentially chatroulette just with anonymity and less nudity.

But that’s not what happened at all.

Instead, people tended to stick with their initial group. With no prior interaction with these people, no more than usernames on a screen, groups formed. Alliances were made. Almost instantly, the experiment became something of a game- make your group grow as large as possible, while controlling the course of conversation and not lose control to spammers, or even other “factions.”

Some people rallied around people with catchy usernames, others found members with the same colored username and tried to make groups of all one color. And other people quickly created spamming bots to ruin all the fun. As it turns out, once groups hit around fifty people, there would be at least one bot spamming special characters so no one could talk effectively with each other.

So once the spammers take over, it’s game over, right? Experiment over, return to standard interneting? Not really. Turns out, it seems those first groups of people actually made a bond. And once the trolls overran things, I saw more than a few groups trying to create a subreddit so that group of people could all stay together and talk more often.

It turns out, humans are social creatures. Even I, a Meyers-Briggs certified introvert, felt that weird little connection with the initial group of people I got. And that warm and fuzzy sorta-kinda internet friendship did not extend to the next several groups we met. Once one finds a group, lines are drawn. The experiment turned into a sort of virtual recruiting contest, where everyone tries to pick off members of other groups to join their own. The ones that did the best had a leader, a motto, or even hierarchies and fake backstories and legends.

It would be easy to dismiss this as lonely internet people taking a joke and running with it. But what’s so fascinating is that this is what everyone did. As humans, our first reaction is to establish a connection, a sense of belonging. Once established, we become combative. Our first friends are often the strongest and the most easily made.


 

The fact is, very few people actually seem to be at home as lone wolves. Almost everyone seeks the comfort of the group and the strength of numbers, but there are those… that thrive in chaos.

This isn’t the first time April Fool’s hijinks on reddit revealed something deceptively insightful about human interaction. Last year the reddit admins installed a virtual button, with a countdown clock ticking down from 60 seconds, saying the button would end when the clock hit zero, but if a user pressed the button, the clock would reset. Users could not press it more than once, and only accounts made before April 1, 2015 could press it. So it had a finite lifetime.

After a couple hours of curiosity and chaos, again two sides formed. One sought to keep the button going as long as possible, organizing users into shifts, waiting 50 or so seconds to click the button to prolong its existence. The other faction wanted to “destroy” the button, by infiltrating the ranks of the first faction and letting time run out when it came time for them to press.

Is this just bored redditors playing a game of “don’t let the balloon touch the ground” or indicative of something larger? Again, the sides were quickly drawn and once they were organized the two groups began to spar with each other. Again, each side picked a leader and developed a hierarchy. They even created some pretty well done art to support their “cause,” whether it be the button’s continuation or demise. And they did all this without any suggestion. Reddit simply let the button be and let the internet take over.

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In times of chaos, our first instinct is to seek order. Perhaps, extrapolating the actions of bored internet users, where the only consequence is the fate of a button or a chat room, we begin to see revelations about certain things deeply rooted in the human psyche. Perhaps we can see this effect, both to good and bad results, in organized religion- groups of people seeking order in a chaotic world, and then turning on the other groups. People seek leaders, be it God or the Pope or some dude with a catchy name on a chat room, to idolize and serve. It brings a sense of purpose and usefulness to someone. The fact is, very few people actually seem to be at home as lone wolves. Almost everyone seeks the comfort of the

group and the strength of numbers, but there are those counter examples that thrive in chaos. That follow their own rules, indifferent to the arbitrarily drawn lines. And as heroic as that sounds, it can be a detriment as well. Spamming a chat room into uselessness is one thing, but what’s its real world equivalent? What happens in the outside world when someone doesn’t feel as though they belong to anything, be it a religion, a political party, a nation, a hobby, what have you? I won’t pretend to know the answer, but there are certainly some darker possibilities.

Just how many people in the world are there like this?

I’m going to guess one in fifty.

In the wake of the tragic news that Series 10 will be Peter Capaldi’s last, I am attempting to deal with the pain tearing me up from inside by speculating about the next incarnation of Time’s Champion. Jaden C. Kilmer and I (J.A. Prentice) will each be providing our three favorites for the role in an attempt to fill those seemingly un-fillable shoes.

J.A. Prentice’s Top Three

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  1. Chiwetel Ejiofor

He has the gravitas, the acting talent, and a voice that fits very well with how I picture the Doctor: mysterious, otherworldly. With Ejiofor, we could see a more reserved, calculating Doctor with just the right mix of compassion and danger. His performance in Serenity alone makes him perfect for the part and his resumé is stacked with incredible displays of acting talent.

The only difficulty, of course, is that he’s an acclaimed rising film star who is rumored to have already turned down the role back when Matt Smith was cast. Whether he’d do it is highly questionable, but I think if he did take the role, it’s certain he’d knock it out of the park.

2. Hayley Atwell

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Agent Carter was a wonderful, fun show that died too young. Conviction is less great, but still has an astounding performance from Atwell. It too, however, seems to be heading to that great five-dollar complete series DVD bargain bin in the sky. This leaves Atwell entirely free to take on a part she’s already said she wanted.

She could bring a sense of fun and energy to the role. If Ejiofor would be more the aloof McCoy-esque Doctor, Atwell would be the McGann/Pertwee-esque action hero, alive and driven by a sense of adventure. She has a presence that commands the screen and a great acting range, from Captain America to Black Mirror to Blood of the Daleks. (She, much like my last candidate, gets bonus points for having done Big Finish). Atwell would be an excellent contrast to Capaldi’s Doctor, as I think all the Doctors should be to their predecessors.

3. Alexander Vlahos

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Just listen to Big Finish’s Dorian Grey stuff. Listen to it.

He can do witty, serious, cold, warm, dark – just about anything. I can see him as a more Sherlock Holmes-ish Doctor, combining a detached alien-ness with a deep sense of emotion and energy. There’s a Shakespearean quality to Vlahos’s performances (which is why I’m looking forward to Big Finish’s Hamlet with him in the lead) and I think that’s an essential element to the Doctor. A lot of lists focus too much on the quirk without paying attention to that need to communicate the deeper character underneath, the ancient Time Lord who has endured thousands of years.

Whoever the next Doctor is, I’ll miss Capaldi a great deal. But hopefully his successor will impress enough to numb that terrible pain.

Jaden C. Kilmer’s Top Three

Like a true American, I’m refusing to acknowledge England’s dominance and used my first two picks on actors from better, more freedom-y, less Brexit-y nations.

  1. Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy is a man of many accents, he’s an Irishman playing an American in Inception, a Londoner in 28 Days Later, and a Midlander in Peaky Blinders, so despite not being English he can do whatever voice asked of him, David Tennant style, or stick with the natural (superior) Irish tilt. Certainly a distinguished and talented actor, Cillian Murphy has been in big name vehicles but has never been a big name himself. His career, though undoubtedly successful, lacks that one defining role. Doctor Who can be that role. His repertoire as an actor is eclectic, his track record a proven one, and he even looks a little alien. He’s got Matt Smith levels of cheekbone.

2. Tatiana Maslany

OK so this is the biggest instance of wishful thinking on our list, but this is our picks, not who we think will be picked by the BBC. But I should do a disclaimer as to why she will NOT be the next Doctor.

a) she’s Canadian

b) she’s probably the “hottest” actor on this list, including Ejiofor. Maslany is the only one here with a major award under her belt and will probably have a few dozen suitors for her next role

c) she still has a year of shooting left on Orphan Black

Having said that, holy shitballs is she good. Her versatility is amazing, her youth would provide a full heel turn from Capaldi’s persona, and like Murphy, she can do whatever accent asked of her. What makes me so excited at the thought of a Tatiana Maslany era of Doctor Who is the sheer possibilities that are opened up by her incredible range. Her skill would open up writing possibilities unavailable to lesser or more specialized actors, her popularity stateside will help Doctor Who advertise the new era stateside with an audience perhaps not as willing to accept the regeneration component to the show, and DID I MENTION HOW MINDBLOWINGLY GOOD SHE IS?

 

I did? OK good.

3. Tom Hollander

No, not Spiderman. Tom Hollander. This guy.

At a Naploeonic 5’5″, Tom Hollander would be the shortest actor to ever play the Doctor. But Tom Hollander has screen presence in spades, and as a 5’4″ guy, it would be nice to see us short guys in the limelight. I’ve also selected him because, of my three, I find him the most likely to get an audition with the BBC. The reason being, his career lines up nicely with that of other NewWho actors. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, Tom Hollander’s biggest TV/Movie role came a decade ago, in a supporting role in Pirates of the Caribbean. He’s been mainly a supporting main when in front of a camera since, coincidentally showing up in many of my favorite movies- Hanna, About Time, Byzantium displaying great range and oozing with screen presence. Looking for a grumpy, gettin-real-sick-of-your-shit Doctor? Watch his About Time cameo. Want an eccentric, cane-twirling weirdo? Hanna. Want a wise, reserved and enlightened Doctor? Byzantium.

And more importantly, Hollander made his name in theatre. Every single New Who actor had their start in theatre, and I think it’s that sort of Shakespearean, Monologue-happy kind of actor that the BBC looks for first and foremost. It makes sense, as the Doctor is one of the few real “theatrical” characters left on TV. The sort of exaggerated performance and grandiosity required for the role is something a theatre veteran is uniquely cut out for.


Who will it be?

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But isn’t speculation fun?

Oscar nominations are in, and we like a lot of what the Academy has chosen to honor. Eight nominations for Arrival?  Love it. Kubo and the Two Strings with a nomination for visual effects? Unprecedented. Fantastic. Finding Dory not given a cursory nomination just because it’s Pixar? Great.

And then we get to the original screenplay award…

The Lobster has been nominated.

This one nomination is so confounding, so absolutely nonsensical, so objectively incorrect, that it’s enough for us (well, me) to say “fuck it, the Oscars have lost their minds! We’ll do our own one! With Blackjack! and Hookers!”

If you haven’t seen this pathetic film-equivalent of canine excrement then here’s a basic summary of the “script.”

The first half is an absurdist black comedy loosely satirizing modern dating culture. It’s not particularly funny or witty, but it at least has a clear focus and tone.

Half way through, it turns into a dystopian guerilla war story, completely forgetting its own premise, plot, and purpose.

What goes into a story? Particularly something you could classify as genre fiction?

You need a premise, for one. The premise of The Lobster is that in the future single men and women go to a sort of resort where they must find a suitable mate in the most objective, emotionless way possible. This premise ends up having nothing to do with the way the plot unfolds.

A story needs to have stakes. In The Lobster, if you don’t find a suitable mate, you are turned into an animal. However this fate is never shown after the opening minutes and, again, the second half of the movie forgets about the stakes it previously set. When stories ignore the stakes that they’ve set up like this they lose any sense of tension, because the audience doesn’t feel a threat.

A story needs an arc. The Lobster has two halves that are entirely incongruent with each other in tone, plot, and purpose. The (thin, weak, unfunny) satire of the first half disappears and the movie is no longer about what it thinks its about. There’s multiple themes that are set up and dropped. It’s really about nothing, actually. And you can make stories about nothing as long as the characters are good (Seinfeld anyone?) but that brings me to…

The characters are all purposely dull. In some pretentious delusion, the writers thought that having none of the characters of the story showing any emotion was some sort of genius satirization giving insight into the modern dating world. Newsflash: Ask any young person and they’ll tell you the issue with dating is that it’s all feeling, no thinking. Maybe  the writers of The Lobster thought it would be hilarious to satirize something by doing the opposite? In which case isn’t that not satire?

A script so objectively horrendous, one that obeys no convention of writing and does nothing to justify why it broke them, getting nominated for best screenplay only has one explanation. This script is so bad that the Academy must’ve thought that they were just missing something, too dumb and simple to comprehend the certain genius they’ve just sat through. Therefore, in a desperate effort to appear like the high-brow snobs they want to be, they nominated this horseshit. They might even let it win.

Your opinion is invalid! I reject your ceremony, and substitute my own!

At the end of Tangled, Princess Rapunzel looked like this:

In the trailer for her sequel TV movie/show, she looks like this:

You might have noticed some small differences.

Disney seemed reluctant to commit to the bobbed version of Rapunzel. They animated her with the new hairdo in the short film Tangled: Ever After and in her Frozen easter egg, but if you bought any merchandise with her depicted on it, she still had the long hair.

Ruminations on unintentionally undermining the movie’s own message about self-image aside, this sort of liminal, Schrodinger-esque existence for Rapunzel’s hair only became a problem when the TV series was announced.

The return of Rapunzel’s magic hair is a writing catch-22. Her hair was the driving force behind Tangled’s plot. With the hair gone, the conflict was neatly resolved and expectations for a Rapunzel movie neatly subverted. Now that it’s back, problems arise. Is the TV movie just going to rehash the same plot, then? Doesn’t its return more or less nullify the climactic moments of Tangled?

And most importantly, since we know Rapunzel has short brown hair in the Ever After short, and that the TV series will take place before the short, then we know that she’s going to lose the hair again. Which also means that we know that we are going to roughly see the same story again. And if that’s not the case, then either Ever After is getting retconned out of existence (unlikely, seeing as Before Ever After is the series subtitle) or the series is non-canon (again, unlikely because of the subtitle.)

There is perhaps opportunity for a miracle, that the creators truly thought of a brilliant way to reincorporate the hair in a way that makes things new and fresh, but the most likely conclusion is this:

The Tangled sequel is doomed.